SCOTTISH PREMIER LEAGUE
Rodgers downplays Old Firm clash: "Expectancy is the same"
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers downplayed tomorrow’s derby meeting with Rangers, saying that whoever they face, his side is always under pressure to win
First Old Firm derby in four years
Brendan Rodgers did his best to maintain a sense of proportion ahead of Saturday's Old Firm run-in with arch rivals Rangers, saying the Hoops are always under pressure to win no matter who they face.
This weekend's match will be the first league clash between the two clubs in four years following Rangers' return to the top flight of Scottish football after working their way back up the divisions after financial problems saw them demoted to the bottom tier.
It will also be Rodgers's first Glasgow derby since he joined the Hoops in pre-season and the Northern Irishman said on the eve of the game: “When you are Celtic and you play every game, especially at home, you are expected to win. We are not running away to say that we don't want to be the favourites; whether we were playing Rangers, Aberdeen, St Johnstone, Hearts... whoever we play at home, the objective is to win.'
The former Swansea and Liverpool manager did concede: “It's a huge game, a special game, but one that we want to win, like every game at Celtic Park. More importantly, the way the team is playing, the energy and ambition of the team has given the supporters something to be proud of so far and, as I said, the atmosphere will be incredible. Every derby is different. Having experienced derbies before, in Merseyside and Wales, there is a certain unique quality to each one and this is iconic throughout the world and one that I am really looking forward to”.
Saturday's match will also be the first time Rodgers has come up against Rangers boss Mark Warburton, although the pair were briefly together at English side Watford. “The Watford post was my first managerial job. Back then, he was director of the youth academy and he did a great job with the younger players”, Rodgers explained. “There is a friendship there from our time at Watford and we spoke on a number of occasions when we left. But we weren't best mates and speaking every week. Firstly, he has done a great job at Rangers... Now that he has got promoted he will probably feel more the expectation at Rangers to do well this season.
Warburton meanwhile was under no illusions about the reception awaiting his side at Celtic Park but backed his players to retain their composure all the same. “It's going to be a feisty atmosphere. We are going into a local derby with 60,000 fans, 52,500 of which will be supporting one side - we recognize that, we are professionals, the same as you guys in the media. If there's a major event, are you suddenly going to lose your professionalism and write or report in a different manner? It's about being consistent in the quality of your work and it's no different in this industry as well”.
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